“Live for Now!” shouts a roadside billboard with pictures of a top-contending cola. Every time I see it I feel a pang of astonishment and I immediately begin reflecting on the overall spirit of our age.
Don’t misunderstand me: I’m not finding fault with that company in particular. Their marketing people have simply done what marketing people get paid to do; namely, finding a slogan that will so resonate with the advertising’s viewers that it strikes a chord. He (or she) is a smart advertiser indeed who can come up with a motto which fully captures the deep-seated feelings, ambitions, and drives within us.
What saddens me, however, is not the fact that this company used this slogan (I often wonder why someone didn’t use it sooner), but the conviction that it is a vastly applicable slogan for our day and age and will likely be very successful.
It says what we want to hear; it tells us to do what our urges compel us to do; and it conveniently cloaks responsibility for the repercussions of “living for the now”. Why is it likely to be successful? Because, the world tells us, we don’t know that we have tomorrow.
The expression “bucket list” seems to me a widely used phrase now, ever since the movie by the same name came out. I have not seen the movie so I cannot evaluate it from a personal perspective. I do notice, however, that many people talk now about their own “bucket lists”. What I feel is especially interesting is that a lot of folks I hear using that expression are largely focusing on self-gratifying endeavors. They want to perform a particular stunt, try a particular kind of food, or visit a particular place. The general idea seems to be that you had better hurry up and do all the things you’ve ever thought you’d want to do in this life because the now is all you have. Fill it up with all the fun, pleasurable, and self-centered ambitions you’ve stored up for yourself because there is nothing after the now to look forward.
I don’t find fault with appreciating the opportunities that God gives us in this life to be adventurous, to do exciting things, and to rejoice in His goodness which has blessed us with pleasurable experiences. These things are, after all, what motivated me to explore a jackal den when visiting a desert in the Middle East (another lesson for another time).
But where, on all these bucket lists, are those things we desire to do that are investments in the hereafter?
Another movie from several years ago, “Deep Impact”, featuring Morgan Freeman as the American President, presented a doomsday scenario in which were highlighted the last days’ experiences of a handful of people. The focus was not really on “living for now” in such a way that last minute pleasures were pursued, but rather in getting ready, mostly by the characters connecting with one another, and (most poignant of all) in reconciling broken relationships.
I couldn’t say for certain what makes now the time in which such a slogan as “Live For Now” especially effective. Maybe a lot of us have bought into the lie that this now is all there is and that there is no hereafter after the here of this life. Maybe a lot of folks are still worried about the off-the-wall interpretation of the Mayan calendar (which, I understand, is off a couple of years and the world should already be fried and I wouldn’t be writing this article). Or maybe some saw the movie 2012 and what they saw on the big screen was all that was necessary to set off morbid imaginings. Whatever the case, many people do indeed believe that the only worthwhile pursuit in this life is the grabbing what you can, while you can, before you lose the chance.
But I happen to believe that there is more to this life than the now. I believe that the Bible’s claim that God will wrap up things in His way and in His time (which, by the way, He specifically said that no one else knows). I believe that there is an eternity awaiting us and that this life has been given to us so that we can prepare for that next life.
I even believe the Bible when it says that Jesus Christ is the “Way” (and the only way) to enter into that life.
For the disciple of Jesus, the motto to live by is not “Live For Now” because doing so focuses our window of eternal opportunity upon a moment that vanishes like smoke. For the disciple of Jesus, the only motto that matters is, “Live For…Ever”. Why? Because while “now” is a fleeting moment, forever is… well, a really, really long time. Just ask anybody.
Jesus discussed everlasting (or eternal) life on multiple occasions. He was, as you might recall, an eyewitness to the wonders of heaven because He had originally come from there. He said that “eternal life” is “that they know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom You have sent” (John 17:3 ESV). Eternal life then is an endless abiding with God Who is so incomparably vast and infinitely wonderful that awaiting us are pleasures and adventures and experiences so numerous that they cannot be counted and so beyond our imaginations that we could not possibly begin to describe them.
He also said that God loves those who live in this world and expressed it perfectly through the gift of His Son, Jesus, as a sacrifice to pay for our sin, a “ransom” if you will. And that by believing in Him we are given eternal life. We “believe in Him” by staking our hope and confidence so utterly upon Him that we forsake all our false hopes (idols) as well as our “living for now” habits and selfish pursuits.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life…. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (John 3:16, Romans 6:23 ESV).
My hope is that when you see or hear such messages as “Live For Now”, you’ll see the foolish lack of foresight in such an attitude and settle for nothing less than wanting to “Live For…Ever” with God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Maybe you’ll even make a bucket list for yourself and put receiving God’s gift of eternal life at the top of the list. What else might you put on that list? Maybe starting back at church. Maybe hosting a Bible study in your home. Maybe a mission trip or a tutoring program. Maybe helping the sick neighbor across the street. Maybe reconciling with a loved one. And maybe, just maybe, skydiving… at least one time.